My last dog died two & a half years ago, in the middle of the first, worst covid lockdown over here*. I nearly went with her out of sheer despair. I’d only moved up here a little over a year before, I’d moved into this house less than six months before, & the renovations, furthermore, were stalled somewhere between oh well, the roof doesn’t leak, & but ALL the windows leak & they were SUPPOSED to be replaced LAST AUTUMN BEFORE ALL OF THIS STARTED. Also, Peter. I know different people process grief differently but some of us go on feeling that we’re somehow thinner on the ground than we used to be.
It had been a bad year for dogs on my street. My neighbour on one side had lost their Alsatian the summer before, & my neighbour on the other side had lost both their pugs, one shortly before mine & more or less expected, the second shortly after mine, & not at all expected. So there was a fair bit of socially distanced sympathetic moaning over fences.
Meanwhile it was almost impossible to find a dog to beg, buy, adopt or steal from an alternate universe. Lockdown meant that all those people who had had airy fantasies about owning their own dog had descended upon & cleared out shelters & kennels & breeders & all other repositories of furry dog-shaped beings.** This is a big house.*** Even with 1,000,000,000 books for company it was empty without a dog.†
I was talking to my ex-pug†† neighbours about what kind of dog we wanted next. Mr Ex-Pug said that the pugs had been his wife’s idea & that it was his turn again, & he wanted a German Wire Haired Pointer, or at least something in that family, Weimeraner, Viszla, whatever. I laughed & said, I wouldn’t touch one of those things with a barge pole. They’re all hysterical perpetual motion machines. Mrs Ex-Pug wrinkled her nose & said yeah, they’re all mad. Mr Ex-Pug grinned.
Those of you who’ve read the new About Me on the (new) web site know where this is going.
Maybe three weeks after this conversation someone knocked on my door (&, it still being lockdown, sprang back smartly when I opened it). It was Mrs Ex-Pug. A friend of ours just rang, she said. He’s starting a new job & he has to give his dog away. It’s too soon for us, she went on, but we thought of you? Because this is a dog that needs a lot of exercise & can’t be left alone all day. & we knew you are really longing for a dog. We told our friend about you, that you work from home even when it isn’t lockdown, & that you believe the purpose of dogs is to take you for long walks. He said, GIVE ME HER PHONE NUMBER. Mrs Ex-Pug said, we wanted to check with you first.
Yes, I said. Yes yes yes yes yesyesyesyesyesyes.
She added, not meeting my eyes, oh by the way, it’s a German Wire Haired Pointer.
Of course it is.
IT’S A DOG. I WANT A DOG.
I admit I quailed slightly at the prospect of a GWHP, & negotiations did not get off to a good start when my dog’s about-to-be-previous owner rang up & I COULDN’T UNDERSTAND HIM because Scottish accents, well. But we hacked our way through to an understanding that he would bring him round to meet me & we’d go for a walk together so I could see how he behaved.†††
& while my fate was pretty much sealed the moment Mrs Ex-Pug said there was a dog that needed a home, my fate was absolutely sealed when, on the afternoon I was to meet him, I was pacing like a caged lion up & down the front windows of the plastic excrescence that used to be the cough cough cough conservatory stuck on to the front of my beautiful old house§, & saw this hairy, eager, interested dog-face thrusting up the last step of my outside stair. & I totally knew. I also knew that Mr Soon-to-Be-Ex-Owner was struggling to make it look like my riotous new destiny had, you know, manners, & failing.§§
But I was about to have a dog.
I’ll tell you about his name next time.
* * *
* The Only Thing Really Wrong with Dogs Is that They Don’t Live Long Enough, as many people have said, including me. I have no idea who said it first, & if I ask on line all I get is a lot of hits of people blogging about their dogs dying. I’m not going near any of these.
In this case my last dog died way way way too young. She was supposed to help me pick out the next generation of hellhounds^ & oversee their puppyhood, which is to say boss them around mercilessly, which, since she had a good sense of humour, I think we all would have enjoyed.
^ She was a hellterror. When Peter died I had three dogs. Two middle-aged hellhounds & a young hellterror. Life goes on blah blah blah but there are years when I feel death is winning.
** I hope at least one person per family of all these people bought a good dog book & read it first, especially the parts about how much TROUBLE dogs are & you have to really WANT ONE & COMMIT TO THE EFFORT.
*** Four bedrooms. Not big for a family. Big for one silly person with a lot of books.
† Caroming into the furniture, knocking stacks of books over, sweeping jigsaw puzzle pieces off the table with a casual turn of the head, shedding THICKETS of dog hair, breathing stentorianly in your ear while you’re eating something interesting, having raucous & exciting dreams when you’re trying to sleep etc
†† No, pugs aren’t my dogs of choice either. But they’re bigger than a guinea pig—one of the things I would not like about having a Yorkie underfoot is that I’d be too likely to step on it—& I’m basically a drooling sap about dogs, & anything that flattens its ears & wags its tail at me is my friend forever. Their dogs were perfectly nice ear-flattening, tail-wagging dogs, & they hadn’t been so overbred for smushed-in faces that they sounded like every breath was their last.
††† The dog not the man. Although one of the first things I noticed about the man is that he takes those little stiff musclebound steps that say that he played too much rugby in his youth. I hoped this not did mean that a necessary coping mechanism for a GWHP owner were aggressive rugby tackles.
§ I have a new sunroom. It’s a saga. I’ll tell you later. I will mention in passing that it cost over twice the estimate, due to circumstances beyond either my or my builders’ control, & I had better sell something soon.^
^ Fortunately I don’t even want to retire, because I can’t afford it.
§§ I should say that Mr Ex Owner in fact put a lot of time & effort into my dog, but he was a full-grown rescue when he got him & GWHPs are not the most, ahem, malleable dogs out there.